'I don't kid': Trump lashes out at claim he was 'joking' about slowing virus testing

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Trump's aides have tried to defend him by saying he was just kidding, but he undercut that defense when he said he wasn't kidding at all.

Donald Trump said Tuesday that he was not kidding when he said he wanted to slow down COVID-19 testing because too many tests were coming back positive.

"I don't kid, let me just tell you, let me make it clear," Trump said before leaving the White House on a trip to Arizona.

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Trump made the original comments on Saturday during a campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

"When you do testing to that extent, you're going to find more people, you're going to find more cases. So I said to my people, 'Slow the testing down, please,'" Trump told the half-empty arena.

That comment led to a torrent of criticism, as early on in the COVID-19 pandemic coronavirus tests were hard to come by. Public health experts say the lack of testing possibly led to further spread of the virus, as experts were unable to trace the source of outbreaks to slow the spread.

In fact, experts say more testing is needed to prevent asymptomatic cases from further spreading the virus and causing more waves of outbreak as the country starts to open up again.

To diffuse the criticism, Trump aides claimed he was just "joking" when he made that remark.

Trade adviser Peter Navarro said Sunday that Trump was "obviously kidding," White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the next day that Trump's comment was made "in jest."

But Trump undercut that defense on Tuesday, when CBS News' Weijia Jiang asked whether his aides were right in saying he was merely joking. It's a tactic his team has used numerous times in the past to try to excuse Trump's offensive comments.

By confirming that he was not joking about slowing down testing, Trump also showed he doesn't understand why testing is important, instead viewing the large number of positive cases through a political lens and how it looks bad for his administration.

"By having more cases, it sounds bad, but actually what it is, we're finding people, many of those people aren't symptoms, very little, they may be young people," Trump told Jiang.

Earlier Tuesday, Trump also sought to defend his desire to see less testing.

"Cases are going up in the U.S. because we are testing far more than any other country, and ever expanding. With smaller testing we would show fewer cases!" Trump tweeted.

That claim is also wrong.

Public health experts don't look at the raw number of positive tests, but rather the percentage of tests that come back positive. The higher the positive rate, the more concerning it is for public health officials.

States such as Arizona, which Trump is visiting Tuesday, are seeing a large positivity rate and a high number of intensive care unit beds occupied — a worrisome sign.

To date, more than 2.3 million people in the United States have been infected by the coronavirus, and 120,345 have died, according to the New York Times.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.